On Friday at work, I was reading Maggie Stiefvater's newest novel, The Raven Boys, during lunch. A coworker asked me if it was good.
Dear coworker, whether this book is "good" or not has very little to do with my enjoyment of it. See, Stiefvater and I are roughly the same age, and--based on what I know of her reading habits from interviews and the like--we read many of the same books when we were teenagers. The Raven Boys is basically the book I would write if I had the skill. It is a book which seems to have arisen out of formative-years obsession with Welsh mythology, implanted by authors like Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander. Like Walton's Among Others, my reaction to The Raven Boys was about the memories and emotions it evoked in me. I was a child obsessed with Wales and stories about King Arthur and other murky rulers of Britain's past who grew up to be an adult interested in magic at large and most specifically how magic is utilized in my day, in people's everyday lives, in "modern" America.
The Raven Boys has that. It has ley lines, the Old Ways found in the Dark Is Rising books, the magical tracks I read of in New Agey books about Stonehenge when I was fifteen; it has Owain Glyndwr, the fabled icon of Welsh resistance to English tyranny; it has, obviously, raven boys, some of whom are very Bran-like indeed. It has psychics and rituals and mirrors, sacred groves and visions (no, not that kind), theories of Welsh expeditions to the Americas predating Columbus. It has inklings of authors that came before, Monmouth and Malory. It has people for whom magic is the everyday, a trope I find endlessly appealing (and why I think the term "magical realism" is a good one and serves a purpose). It is in itself a mirror, reflecting a mass of my reading experience, the books that really shaped me, back to me.
Perhaps best of all, it serves as a bridge between those books, which some readers may not have read, and the shining new fairy tale Stiefvater has created. It is possible to enjoy The Raven Boys without knowing a thing about Welsh history and myths, and I suspect that this book will serve many readers as a tease to know more. Never a bad thing. It's good to know there will be more books in this new series--three more--especially after that damn ending.